Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia

When I think of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, I now think of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  That these two actors have so thoroughly eclipsed their predecessors obviously has a lot to do with the medium of television, but it’s mostly due to Steven Moffat  and Mark Gatiss’s brilliant reinvention of a Holmes and Watson for the 21st century.  They set the tone in the first episode of the first series (2010) with  A Study in Pink, and carried it through to A Scandal in Belgravia.  As with Moffat’s other project, Doctor Who, I have to watch each episode twice to get catch everything the writing and acting has to offer.

In A Scandal in Belgravia, Sherlock meets his match in the supremely intelligent and beautiful dominatrix, Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver.  Her clients from the upper reaches of the British establishment tell her everything, and she has it all stashed away in her cameraphone, protected by a passcode that takes Sherlock almost the whole episode to discover.

This duel of minds and sexual attraction (“Brain is the new sexy”) is the core that runs through A Scandal in Belgravia, relegating the serious business of why these secrets are so important to the subplots that weave around it.  Irene’s first meeting with Sherlock, when she walks into the room naked, was stunning.  It set the agenda for her plan to seduce him into complicity, something she seems to have accomplished until he confesses to feeling her pulse at that opportune and tender moment.  So deducing that she was in fact aroused, and extrapolating from it the passcode for the cameraphone.  What else but SHER?

But Sherlock is also smitten enough to rescue Irene from terrorists about to cut off her head.  “The Woman.  The Woman” says it all.

There is so much to enjoy.  A jumbo jet filled with dead people, so terrorists don’t realize that their plot to blow it up has been discovered, is wonderfully Gothic.  The kicking the CIA agents get is thoroughly satisfying – couldn’t happen to more deserving characters.  I particularly like the way their leader falls out of a window several times after brutally interrogating Mrs Hudson.  And it’s heartwarming to see how Sherlock reacts to her being in danger.  He’s a good boy, and he protects the people who care for him, despite his offhand manner.

That said, he’s also cruel in his honesty.  Poor Molly is humiliated at the Christmas party when she turns up dressed to seduce, armed with the knowledge that she’ll have Sherlock to herself when everyone leaves.  Sherlock’s dissection of her behaviour, and discovery that the present was meant for him, is painful to watch.  His apology is even more surprising.

Then there’s the assumption that Sherlock and John are a couple.  Even Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) accepts that John is now part of the family and can be trusted with emotional secrets.  Irene thinks they are, and so does John’s date at the Christmas party when he stays behind to keep an eye on Sherlock after Irene’s purported death.  At Mycroft’s insistence, no less.  Only John is convinced he’s not gay, and they’re not a couple.  Yet there’s a whisper of jealousy in the way he asks Sherlock if he’ll see Irene again, when she’s revealed as still alive.

John’s blog is a great joke, and making it the reason for Sherlock’s runaway success as a consulting detective is inspired.  Leading as it does to them fleeing the paparazzi in a hasty disguise, which of course means Sherlock grabbing a deerstalker.  What else would he wear?

Terrific stuff.  Can’t wait to see what Mark Gatiss makes of the Hound of the Baskervilles next week.  Robert Downey, Jr. can take his action/adventure, CGI-enhanced Hollywood Sherlock and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

Building an H-Bomb for Dummies

Last month a Swedish man, Richard Handl, was arrested while trying to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen.  Here’s the fascinating BBC interview, in which Our Hero talks about his brush with surely the highest possible accolade in the Darwin Awards.  Even though Health and Safety jobsworths ruined the experiment, he just blows away his nearest competitor in The One Who Lived To Tell The Tale category, Lawnchair Larry.  Would it surprise you to know that Mr Handl is unemployed, with way too much time on his hands?  I can’t think of a better argument for full employment, so we can nip this sort of thing in the bud.

Handl is really quite proud of himself, judging by his blog, Richard’s Reactor.  Clearly this European has thrown down the gauntlet to America’s best and brightest, who must surely avenge the honour of Lawnchair Larry.  As a dual UK/US citizen, I feel obliged to give them a helping hand to go one better.  Here is a full-proof method for constructing an H-Bomb in the comfort of your own home, from an article published in 1979.  This is my original blog post from 2009.

Go for it, guys! Fuck, yeah!

How to Build an H-Bomb

Making and owning an H-bomb is the kind of challenge real Americans seek.  Who wants to be a passive victim of nuclear war when, with a little effort, you can be an active participant?  Bomb shelters are for losers.  Who wants to huddle together underground eating canned Spam?  Winners want to push the button themselves. Making your own H-bomb is a big step in nuclear assertiveness training — it’s called Taking Charge.  We’re sure you’ll enjoy the risks and the heady thrill of playing nuclear chicken.

Now then, just to be sure, and I apologize to those of you who spotted it right away, this is satire.  SA-TIRE.  But you can’t be too careful these days.  Barbara Ehrenreich was one of the co-authors.  Her blog tells how Binyam Mohamed was tortured in Pakistan, before getting banged up in Guantanamo, on the basis of having read this article.

Anyway, back in 1979, Seven Days magazine published How to Build an H-Bomb.  It became something of a cause celebre among those who care about freedom of expression, and later achieved cult status on the internet.  A sort of Great White Whale, much spoken of but rarely sighted.  When I came across it a while ago, I swore to publicize the article if ever I had a blog.

Obviously the political context has changed dramatically in terms of the actors, and the text shows its age, but has anything else really changed?  Take this quote:

Not that Seven Days supports nuclear terrorism.  We don’t.  We would prefer to die slowly from familiar poisons like low-level radiation, microwaves, DDT, DBCP, aflatoxins, PBBs, PBCs, or food dyes, rather than unexpectedly, say as hostage to a Latvian nationalist brandishing a homemade bomb.  In our view the real terrorists are the governments, American, Soviet, French, Chinese, and British, that are hoarding H-bombs for their own use, and worse still, those governments (U.S., French and German) that are eagerly peddling advanced nuclear technology to countries like South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina so that they can make their own bombs.

Some of the names have changed.  Not much else.

Again, here’s how you know it’s satire:

The heart of the successful H-Bomb is the successful A-Bomb.  Once you’ve got your A-Bombs made the rest is frosting on the cake.

If you find yourself dozing off while you’re working, or if you begin to glow in the dark, it might be wise to take a blood count.

To avoid ingesting plutonium orally follow this simple rule: never make an A-bomb on an empty stomach.

Here’s the article, How to Build an H-Bomb.